It's about a fortnight since Rod Cameron, baroque flute-maker extraordinaire, came to visit. Always a pleasure, and this time hopefully leading on to a fascinating reconstruction (see below).
I joined the YEStival ceilidh in Ullapool last Saturday to read some poems from Scotia Nova, due out from LUATH press any day now. A heartening event with audience discussion, and musicians, poets, film-makers all giving their services for nothing. I had the temerity to read George Gunn to George Gunn, and read a couple of my own poems which you will also find in Scotia Nova.
The long drive there and back (I took a very scenic route with Applecross thrown in) was enlivened by a young Danish couple to whom I gave a lift. They didn't know where they were going, so they came along with me to join the fun. They had got engaged in the heart of the Cuillin mountains two days before and we listened to Bonnie Rideout playing MacDougall's Gathering as the mountains and sea-lochs pushed the road in every direction. Perfect.
Then back home with the Danes (light rain and midges so camping for them was out of the question) who accompanied me up to Dunvegan on the Sunday where I addressed assembled MacLeods on the prehistory of the music of the clans. A lovely audience from a' the airts: many knowledgeable, all enthusiastic and all ready to purchase CDs. Hurrah!
Monday to prepare to travel early on Tuesday to Pitlochry to meet up with Graeme Lawson and head to the Crannog Centre on Loch Tay and meet with Barrie Andrian and discuss a fascinating object from c.400BC closely related to the High Pasture Cave find of a bridge for a plucked stringed instrument.
The Crannog Centre is a fascinating site, well worth a serious visit. Nick Dixon and Barrie Andrian are the leading underwater archaeologists who set it up and run it.
On to Lenzie, over the Campsie Fells, to bring two of my favourite people together for the first time - Graeme Lawson and John Creed, scholars and craftsmen reconstructing ancient instruments. A chance to admire some of John's recent and exquisite work.
Wednesday to Glasgow to meet Stuart Johnston whose publishing company, Kennedy and Boyd, are to bring out my new and collected poems There Is No Night this autumn. That was followed by a lunch with the baroque flautist and PhD student, Elizabeth Ford. She and Rod Cameron are working on the idea of reconstructing the Crathes Castle ceiling flute, for which notion they can blame me, and probably will! Again, such fun!
The rest of the day with family and then to Edinburgh on Thursday to go through all the metal and bone artefacts from High Pasture Cave at the National Museums of Scotland. Graeme Lawson and Fraser Hunter are the experts, but for reasons best known to them, they allow me to don the sticky sweaty rubber gloves and feed fragile objects to the microscope. Some really exquisite workmanship there too. If John Creed had been with us, I can just hear his "Ooooh" and "Aaaah" as a wee beauty of La Tene style repoussee bronze contended for first place with minute sharpest of needles and fine, fine crochet hooks, presupposing the very finest of threads. Then a drive back to Skye that evening, giving my Ford Focus a pat on the facia panel for excellent service after hundreds of miles of sometimes tortuous driving!
Now dealing with the usual requests for information, often really interesting and teaching me things I did not know, but also time consuming. But not consuming so much o0f it that I have not had time to enjoy parts of the Commonwealth Games, and see gallus Glasgow doing its splendid best, and our young Scottish athletes take their places with determination and pride amongst the elite of their kind from all over the world.
And - a parting shot - if anyone thinks the Tunnocks Tea-cakes were naff, I remember fondly a nurse coming to me in hospital at 3.00am when painkillers had failed and sleep eluded me, and offering me a cup of tea. That brightened me up, but the Tunnocks Tea-cake that came with it made me so happy that I do believe I slept until breakfast.
It is over a week since the excellent Rannsachadh nan Gaidheal conference in Edinburgh at which I met many old friends and good colleagues, and managed not to disgrace myself or, I trust, Dr. Meg Bateman in our joint plenary presentation. There were many interesting papers - especially one given by Emma Anderson on early woodwind instruments in the Gaidhealtachd, which appealed to my prehistoric leanings, although she was focussing on the written word and the meaning of the Old Gaelic word stoc.
John MacInnes was there with his wife Wendy and daughter Catriona. John was receiving due accolades for his outstanding work as a researcher, scholar and generous colleague over many decades, and Wendy was very much included in that. A joyous occasion.
Back on the croft we enjoyed our first new potatoes - Red Duke of York, superb with our own fillet steak and courgettes. The cows are out on the Common Grazings, looking sleek and well and no great distance from the bull, which is encouraging. Warm sunny south-westerly winds make this ideal lying-out-in-the-heather weather, of which I have done far too little in my life.
A couple of my poems have been chosen for a new book, Scotia Nova and I will be attending the Yestival events in Ullapool on the 19th and possibly Harris on the 17th to present them and others.
Soon it will be time to prepare a lecture for the Clan MacLeod parliament in Dunvegan on the 20th. This is the Stanley MacLeod Memorial Lecture, so I shall be sporting my ancient MacDougal kilt with pride.
John Purser is widely known as a composer, musicologist, poet, playwright, and broadcaster.